February 26, 2013

Chrys’ Writing Rules: Bad Things Must Happen

The first rule I greatly believe in when I am writing is that you must let bad things happen to your characters, especially the protagonist.

Did you just start hyperventilating? Do you think I’m a cruel writer?

Take a slow, deep breath. I know how much you love your characters. They are a part of you. You ripped them from your subconscious, from the greater parts of your being. You want to cuddle them in your arms, as you would a new born baby, because sometimes creating a character feels equivalent to giving birth or siring a child. You want to protect them in your writing. You want to keep the big, bad antagonist away from them. You’ve read books where the author puts their characters through something terrible. You shake your head and think, “I could never do that!”

I get it! Believe me, I do! 

In our lives bad things happen to us. We would never choose to let these things happen if we had the choice, but sometimes we have no control over the things that happen, like a cancer diagnosis, a car accident that wasn’t our fault, or a job layoff. However, we do have control over what happens to our characters, and while we may want to shield them, make them happy, and only let good things happen to them that isn’t life. Does it sound like your life? Are you always happy? Do only good things happen to you? I would bet not!

It is crucial to make your book realistic to life, which means bad things must happen to your characters! This may be difficult at first, but once you ponder your story idea for a while, you’ll start to think of some not-so-happy situations that could happen in your book, and some bad things that could happen to your characters. But make sure it is authentic to the plot! You can't just throw in tragedy for the sake of tragedy. Everything you write has to play out thoroughly and come together perfectly to create a complete story.

The important thing is to know what you’re going to do to help the characters grow from the hardships, and how they can use them to conquer the antagonist or reach their goal.

Anne Lamott says, “You are probably going to have to let bad things happen to some of the characters you love or you won’t have much of a story.”

QUESTIONS: Do you agree or disagree with this writing rule? 

What is something bad that you will let/have let happen to one of your characters?

February 19, 2013

Writing About: Family Conflict

When you’re writing any sort of family conflict, the best advice I can give you is to draw from your own life. I’m sure you’ve witnessed conflicts within your own family, and perhaps have been a part of some these dramas. Every family I know, and I am sure every family in the world, has conflict within its DNA strand. It’s normal! And it also makes for great writing material!

Flannery O’Connor once said, “Anyone who survived childhood has enough material to write for the rest of his or her life.”

This is a DNA strand key chain I made when I was thirteen.
Photo by Chrys Fey

You don’t necessarily have to use the exact same conflict that you experienced within your family, but you can use certain details: insults that were flung around, a smashed blender that was thrown, or how you felt during those intense moments.

Another piece of advice that may help you to write family conflict is to imagine you are in the midst of family drama. What do you think would happen? What do you think would be said?

You can also picture someone that you despise (this person doesn’t even have to be a family member), and imagine what you would do or say to that person if you had the chance to be face-to-face with them. This strategy has greatly helped me in my writing to create perfect confrontations, fights, and arguments.  And it is very therapeutic too! I highly recommend this technique, especially if you have pent-up resentment towards someone.

Overall, make the family conflict realistic. If you do, your readers will believe it and hopefully identify with it too.

SHARE: Your tips to writing family conflict in your work.

February 12, 2013

Rules For Writing: No Dreams

Some writing rules I find should be taken with a grain of salt, and some I find to be gems. Writing rules that say you should not write this or that are not law. However, grammar rules are law. And any rule that will fix your writing should be followed! 

I once heard that a writer should never write a dream.

I am not talking about a dream that inspired a story. Whatever way that you can get an idea for a story is golden. If you had a dream one night and woke up saying, “That would make a great story!” then write it! The best ideas for stories come from dreams.

The writing rule regarding dreams is that you cannot write about a dream that your character is having. Doing this will lower the value of your writing, annoy the reader, confuse the plot, and add nothing to the story but nonsense. I agree only if you are writing about a dream that is like the many weird dreams we have at night. For instance, dreams about clowns, killer bunnies, flying, or jumping out of a tall tree do not need a place in your book. If it doesn’t make sense to the story line leave it out!

However, I don’t totally agree with this writing rule. I have written about my character's dreams because they related to the story I was telling. The main character in my (unpublished) series has had a couple of dreams that I wrote about because they added to the story and actually came into play later. In one of my short stories, the main character is psychic and the dreams she has at night actually happen.

So if a dream adds to your story and influences the plot then I don’t see any harm in writing it. But make sure that it makes sense! You want your reader to understand exactly why you included the character's dream, not to scratch their head.

QUESTIONS: Do you believe this writing rule is ridiculous or a gem?

Have you written about a characters dream in one of your stories?

February 05, 2013

Writing About: Holidays

In our lives, we treat Thanksgiving (the day for giving thanks) and Christmas (a time for love and peace) with special importance. Then why can’t we give these holidays equal importance in the stories we write? We can! Even a thriller can step back from killings and drama to bring a little holiday cheer, even if it ends in killings and drama.

Diverting from the norm can actually be a relief to the reader, and can be an opportunity to reveal more about your characters. It can be a little writing vacation for you too.

To write a holiday such as Thanksgiving or Christmas, you can do one of two things:

1.    Think back on that Thanksgiving or Christmas in your past that was special to you and recreate it by substituting yourself and your family with the characters in your book. What made it memorable? What scents did you smell in the air? What goodies did you eat? What gifts did you give and receive? Use details from your memory to bring it to life again in your writing.
2.    Imagine the perfect Thanksgiving or Christmas that you wish you could experience in real-life. What would the tree and decorations look like? What food would be on the dinner table? Now think about how your characters would make it unique. What would they wear to this festivity? How would they contribute to the cheer? Describe it so that your readers can enjoy it too.
You can also do a combination of the two methods by using bits and pieces of your favorite holidays and blending them together with what you think would make the ultimate holiday.

For Chapter Two, I envisioned the most beautiful holiday that I could possibly give to my characters to make up for everything I’ve put them through.

QUESTION: Do you like it when authors describe holidays in their books?